Rufus H. Peck.

Reminiscences of a Confederate soldier of Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry online

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of v.'hom, I remember, was Melvin Gibbs. Both armies remained in position
until night fall and were more than glad to get back to quarters with our
provender. Neither claimed to have conquered or to have been conquered.

The next day I got permission to ride over the battlefield which was my
custom. After viewing the battlefie.d from "Dan to Beersheba" and was re-
turning. I saw a lady beckoning to me from her home. I went to her yard
fence and she told me there was a soldier there who was intoxicated. I dis-
mounted and went in and to my great suprise, found it to be a man of our
regiment, from Co. I, of Campbell county, by the name of Johnnie Wooten,
(the man who sat back in his whiskers, the boys called him.) I insisted on his
going to the camp with me. which he finally agreed to do. The < apt. sent him
to the guard house and the offieer of the guard made him walk for two hours
with the sentinel, as his punishment.

I had received a box from home that day, which was enjoyed heartily by
all soldiers you know. .After partaking of its contents I was in the best of spirits.
Any child could have played with me then. I thought of poor Johnnie Wooten
on his two hours tramp and went out to share some of my provision with him.
I found him still paying his penalty and gave him a ration. I agreed to walk
in his place while he would go a few steps inside the encampment to eat his
supper. At this interval, the guard sent the chaplain out to reprimand and
advise Johnnie how to conduct himself in the future. When he came up the
sentinel halted him The chaplain remarked that he wanted to talk to Johnnie
and as I was acting for Johnnie at that moment. I got the whole reproof and

After we three walked together about ten minutes, the chaplain asked me

if I wouldn't promise to do better in the future. And with my handkerchief
over my face all the time, to keep him from recognizing me, I promised faith-
fully to try. The chaplain went back very much gratified to know that John-
nie had repented so earnestly.

As Johnnie, in reality, failed to get this reprimand, as soon as he was re-
leased, went in search of his horse which had strayed over to Co. C's picket
rope. He was so provoked, he cut the picket rope, which was against the
rules, of course, ixnd was immediately sent back to the guard house.

We were next ordered to prepare winter quarters near Stone Bridge. About
this time I was sick and was sent to the hospital near Centerville. After re-
covering 1 came back to the camp, having been absent about a month.

As it was near Xmas, now, W. S. Hines, one of our Co., had engaged eggs
and cream for making "egg-nogg." My horse, the "Flying Artillery." was
very restless, pawing continually, and I remarked that I wished I had a long
ride to take on him and could give him the exercise he needed.

Hines told me I could ride for the cream and eggs. He v/ent to his tent
and brought canteens enough to hold about a gallon and a half. I started oft
and when I got to the house, the lady remarked, as 1 gave her the canteens,
that "the man must expect to fatten his sick man." i told her 1 expected he
had several sick men he wanted to give cream to, never hinting at ''egg-nogg."
you may know. I soon got back to camp and as the ground was covered with
snow, my horse slipped right in a hole made by the picket rope post and turned
a complete somersault. falUing ri^'ht on top of me. I whistled to the horse and
he sprang up at once. I thought I was smashed up right this time and would
certainly get a furlough to go home. My brother-in-law and a neighbor, A.
A. Woodson, had come down to take me home from the hospital, but before
they arrived I was back on duty. They were still in camp with us when this
o curred and my first thought was whether I'd be able togo home. 1 first tried
to move my right arm and it worked alright, then my left and it r'^isponded
also. Then I tried both legs, thinking some of the limbs were sure to fail to
work, but to my utter astonishment, i wasn't hurt at all, only stunned. My
first remark was that any big headed soldier that wouldn't get hurt by such a
fall as that ought never to get a furlough..

When I got into camp and told the joke on myself the boys enjoyed it hugely.

The winter quarters were completed by this time, so we broke camp and
occupied them. While v/e were expecting to enjoy the winter quarters, unlike
Geo. Washington's men at Valley Forge, as thcjre was plenty of every thing
to live upon and we were all well clothed, we received orders for half of the
regiment and Col. Radford to move on to Leesburg.

Five of the higglers from our mess were ordered out, so it only left John
K. Young, Lewis Young and myself The regimental quarter master, wagon-
master and several other men offered to furnish the rations and pay the three
left in our mess to cook for them. My job was to notify them when meals
were ready and as these men had control of the rations they also had control
of the whiskey.

When I went for them the first time they drew the bottle for a social


drink, all around Pharoah's dream occurred to me that moment, how seven
years of plenty must provide for seven years of famine. So while I had that
bottle at hand I thoug-ht I'd just keep it for a time of need. I according^ly
slipped it into my coat p )cket, unnoticed by the other men. Ever}; time I went
for the men, I played the same prank on their whiskey, as I knew the whiskey
was to be blockaded soon and we would need it for the boys when they were
si vk. After three or four days some of them said to me that some body was
taking their whiskey while they \ ere gone to their meals and I told them I
was next to a detective to find such fellows and I'd soon locate him for

Col. Munford's tent was next to these fellows and he had a cook, hostler
and man servant. This servant was a bo> of about sixteen, by the name of
Billy. They all called him the Col's cup-bearer. Well if ever there was a black
boy he was the one ; so black until he was blue, and charcoal was ashamed of
it<elf by the side of him

It just occurred to me how funny it would be to put the blame of whiskey
stealing on Billy, as I knew the Col. would take care of him. On my next
arrival they told me I was right, they could tell that very nigger had gotten
their whiskey. I continued like Joseph to lay up for the whiskey famine until
the blockade occurred. After I'd gotten all they had and they could'nt treat
me any more I began treatmg them. There was a moonshiner a couple of
miles from camp and a man was going there to get whiskey, so I gave him
$5 00 to get a canteen filled for the quarter masters, fearing theirs would run
out before the blockade was raised, and the man came back saying he couldn't
get it for less than $10.00 a canteen. I told him he was crazy, that I'd bet
1 could get a canteen full for nothing and one full of butter milk besides. He
said I was a fool and he'd bet me $100. I couldn't do it. I took th'e bet and we
staked the moneJ^

I had two Yankee canteens exactly alike and I filled one with water and
put a little whiskey on top, as you know they wont unite. We both then went
to the moonshiner and I gave him the counter-sign. He knew by this that I
wasn't going to betray him. I gave him the empty canteen and he went into
the cellar and filled it. When he came out and gave it to me, I put it in my
saddle pocKets and gave him $5 00 He held up his ten fingers, signifying that
I must give him more. I told him I was buying it for a Co. and they wouldn't
hear to such figures as that, and I'd just have to give him his whisKey bacK
until I could see the men, but gave him my canteen of water with a little bit
of whisKey on top intead of the canteen of whisKeJ^ He gave me my $5 00 and
tooK the canteen and emptied it into his barrel. I asKed him to tell his wife to
please fill the canteen with butter milK, if she could spare it, which she did,
so I got my whisKey and butter milK, for which he'd accept no pay, and I won
my $100. Of course the moonshiner lost nothing, but some fellow bought
water in his whiskey after that, i wouldn't take the $100. i had won, but we
all enjoyed the joke.

Soldiers have to resort to many jokes and pranks, to keep up spirits, that
they would neve) think of in private life.


We each took our turn picketing around Drainsville, a small town on the
Loudon and Leesburg Turnpike. We made many friends in this section finding
relatives of some of our county people. A whole company was sent out on
picket for a three days period and we were given money to buy our ration
while out, so we rather enjoyed the outing.

It was a hard winter, but the 8th of March soon rolled around and we were
ordered to vacate winter quarters and go to Richmond. The whole army did
not go as Ewell was ordered to Washington Junction and half of the 2nd Va.
Cavalry was sent to keep up a vidette line from Manassas Junction to Stras-

Company C. was among the ones sent and our first order was to burn all
the commissaries at Manassas Junction. Then the next was at Haymarket.
The next burned supplies at Thoroughfare Gap. At this point a great man>
hogs were driven every year and butchered and there was a large mill, which
had cost $2,000 and was being used as a packing house. The citizens told us
that 600,000 lbs of bacon was stored in the building. We were ordered to burn
this also, which we did and when the lard ran out into the creek it chilled and
formed a dam across Broad Run. There v/as an acre lot about covered with
barrels of flour at the point we had been getting our supplies from, and as it
was feared the Yankees would get that also, we were ordered to knock the
barrels to pieces and ride over the flour to destroy it. I was bitterly opposed to all
this destruction but we had to carry out orders. We also had orders to blow
up the big stone bridge, around which the first battle of Manssas was fought.
It took 40 kegs of powder to destroy the bridge. It was destroyed in order to
prevent the qnemy from following us, as it the main thoroughfare from
Washington to the foot of the Blue Ridge.

We burned the depot also, destroying numbers of boxes sent to the soldiers,
from home. We opened the boxes and got out any money that was in them,
ate what we could of the provision, and took such clothing as we needed. We
advanced the money on to the boys. We had to burn Loudon Station also,
just on top of the Blue Ridge, and the last was at Front Royal. The boxes at
both of these stations were ordered to be opened and, of course, we received
some benefit from them but not near so much as if the soldiers in camp could
have received them.




Ewell then fell back to Orange C. H., and we joined him there for future
orders. Capt. Duchene and Capt. White, of Ewell's division, married two
young ladies in Fairfax Co. and brought them in a fine carriage driven by a
white man, on up to Orange C. H. They were there at a private residence
boarding and would often drive out to the camp and when we were tearing
d ) ■. 1 tents and ^-etting ready to goto the Valley, these ladies asked me if
I'd seen the Captains but I hadn't and we began inquiring and no one had seen
them for a few hours, and we learned afterward that they had resigned their
positions put on citizens clothing and had gone to parts unknown. The ladies,
of course had nothing to do but to return to their homes.

We crossed the Rlue Ridge at Sneegers Gap in a down pour of rain and
pitched our tents at Elk Run church. The rain ceased that night, so we were
ordered to clean up the encampment next day v/hich v/as Sat. Sun. dawned
clear and calm ar.d we all had the privilege of attending the church services.
The afternoon was spent in sleep, or rather a part of it. We were aroused by
screams from the east end of the encampment and we looked and saw men
shooting out from under their tents and capsizing some of them in their mad
rush. We inquired for the trouble and some said a snake had crawled ever
their faces, and others that the devil was in the tent. Aft^^r a number of
Cc-nts were overthrown and all the men awakened, nearly, we found that the
trouble was a large black snake running over the men while asleep. He ran
in a muokrat hole, so no one had the pleasure of killing him for breaking our

We remained h^re a few days and scouting parties Vv^ere sent out every
day across the mountain, and as far down as Linden Station to see if the ene-
my was approaching.

The cavalry that was engaged in thi.s vidette line, picketted on the Shen-
andoah River and were often routed by the enemy. Some of the men didn't
stop until they got clear out of the country.


About this time we had a re-election of officers and Col. Munford v.-as put
in command of our whole regiment, where as he had only commanded half, and
Col. Watts was elected Lieut. Col

On the 3rd of May, when the regiment was near Linden Station, 13 of us
were left at Flint Hill, several miles distant, to have our horses shod, and as
we were going on to overtake the command, we met a man galloping up the
road. Serg. Lem.on. who had charge of us, rret the man first and let him pass,
but when he reached me I oidered him to halt, as I saw he was a northerner.
But he fell fiat on his horse and swiftly made a turn in the road, so we didn't
pursue him. He dropped a nice gum coat in his wild rush, v.hich we didn't
fail to get.

We were in Rappahannock Co., and there were a great many stone fences'
and I told Serg, Lemon v/e had better get out into the open on a hi^h point
and see if we could locate any forces of the enemy. We hadn't gone any dis-
tance until we saw Gen. Gary with a division of Inft. and a regiment of caval-
ry, making his way from Front Loyal to Hichm.ond. Wt- soon overtook Col.
Munford and notified him of Gen. Gary's movement and he waited until night
fall and passed through Flint Hill, and took another road leading to Madison
C. H. We camped and kept watch.

The next day some of Gary's men came out in sight and Munford sent a
couple of companies to cut these men off from the command and capture them,
and when we got to a rock fence where v^ e thought we could cut them off, we
found the fifth Mich. Inft lying just behind the fence. They raised up right
at us and cur horses were stopped to suddenly that six of the men werethrov\n
and captured.

When Major Gary Breckmridge, who was in command of us, s w the trap
we were in. he ordered us to "left about wheel," and just in the act of turn-
ing, a bullet that was aimed at me struck C C. Cahoon, the man next to me
in the arm.

We had to retreat about 400 yards in full view of this whole regiment and
they were firing at us all the time. But they were excited and overshet us
and only the one man was wounded. My horse v.'as struck on the foot and had
to make three-fourths of the distance on three feet. The roll was called after
we got back, but only the six men of Franklin Co , had been captured.

After awhile three independent scouts came up, V/illiams, Lamar Fontain,
and Farley — S. Carolina and Mississippians Ihey v.-^anted a dozen sharp-
shooters to go to v.'here some Yankees were doing a lot of depredating, killing
cattle, etc. I was sent among the others to within about 500 yards of where
they were and we could see the hill beyond blue with Yankees.

We fired four or five shots each before they had time to protect themselve.s,
and killed and wounded a dozen or rviore, but then had to retreat for our
own safety.

The next morning I was sent with C. C. Cahoon, William Henderson and
George Zimmerman, who had been wounded by their horses falling with
them, except Cahoon, who was shot, to Madison C. H. I led their horses and
took $100. to pay their expenses on the road, but we weie so kindly treated by

every one that I didn't have to pay a penny. Mrs. Gen Kemper had charge
of the hospital and took care of the men.

I took my horse, which had been wounded, to the horse pasture and got
another and returned with the ambulance, in several days.

The command was moving, but Gary reached Richmond and was killed in
the first battle around Richmond.

We next went back and joined Eweli in Luray county, and went on toward
Front Royal, where there was a U. S. garrison. We joined Jackson at Front
Koyal, and Col. Ashby, with the fin=t Va. regiment, attacked the enemy here
and drove them back with heavy loss. The 2nd Va. regiment was to the right
and didn't receive as heavy firing as the 1st Va.

There were two Maryland companies In the 1st Va. cavalry and they were
eager to bring on the attack, as the Maryland infantry held the position.

The cavalry made a charge through a wheat field and the regiment of in-
fantry was lying down in the wheat, and when the cavalry came near the infan-
try arose and slew a number of our men. Col. Ashby then ordered our mfen
to charge v^ith drawn sabers, which they did, with considerable slaughter.
This was our first charge with drawn sabers. The enemy retreated to Win-
chester, about four miles distant. The remainder of the day was quiet except
picket firing.

The next day, which v as Sunday. Gen Ewell advanced from Front Royal
v/ith his division of Infantry and Gen. Jackson advanced from Strasburg with
a division of Infantry, also. The country was generally fenced with stone
fences and both armies made use of the fences as fortifications.

There was a rock fence running parallel with the fences occupied by both
armies, and each army vv'as ordered to advance to this middle fence. The Con-
federates beat the enemy to the fence and opened a deadly fire on them. The
enemy was so near the fence that they lost heavily before they could retreat
and re-crui^s the fence used as their fortification.

The Confedefates followed them on into the town, and just as we entered
the village a lady began ringing a church bell, giving us new zeal, and the cav-
alry was ordered to charge after they had gotten through the town. This they
did with heavy loss to the enemy and considerable loss to us. We could have
captured a great many mf>re men, but they lined up a lot of wagons and set
fire to them, completely blockading the road. We could not pass the fire, of
cour;=.e, and could not tear down or cross the rock fences rapidly enough to pur-
sue to i\riy advantage. • However, we drove the enemy to Harper's Ferry.

We remained at Harper's Ferry several days and while we were there Gen.
P>ank« v/as removed ^.nd Gen. Shields appointed in his stead. Gen. Banks had
command of the northern forces at Winchester, and the command was given to
Shields jubt after the battle.

While we were at Harper's Ferry Gen. Jackson received word that Gen.
Fremont was advancing on Harrisonburg from the direction of Parkersburg,
aiming to pen him. So Jackson made a force march, marching day and night,
in order to get to Harrisonburg before Fremont.

Shields rapidly followed us, but our men kept holdiux hirr^ in check. We

were sent on at the head of the army, as the cavalry could make much better
time. We arrived one day ahead of the infantry and rode two miles beyond
Harrisonburg in the direction of Parkersburg, and fortified.

Gen. Ashby maneuvered so wisely, that John C. Fremont, (the old woolly
horse) , thought he had to fight Jackson's whole army and was preparing for
same. While he was preparing for a genera! attack, Jackson passed through
Harrisonburg and went in the direction of Port Kepublic.

' When Fremont made the attack, we retreated hurriedly through Harrison-
burg, and Fremont censured his English General, Percy Windam, for allowing
Ashby to deceive him that way.

Windam pursued us and made his brags that he would capture Ashby be-
fore the sun went down. He attempted it and Ashby made the same attempt
at him. Windam ordered a charge, but his men wouldn't follow him and he
ran into our lines and we captured him. Just as we captured him, Gen. Ashby
was killed A confederate brigade was ordered back to help us and quite a
number of our men were killed, but not so ^many as of the enemy. This is
known as the battle of Harrisonburg. Night came on and pat a stop to hostili-
ties for a time.

The cavalry pickets were stationed all around, but tiie next morning just
after sun rise, the enemy began to advance again. Gen. EwelFs division took
a stand near a little, village called Cross Keys. Gen. Fremont marched against
him with a force more than double the number of his. At about 10 o'clo'-ktho
battle began and raged until about four. Fremont was completely vv-hipped
and never made another attack.

Jackson, now thinking his way was clear, continued his march to Port Re-
public. But when he arrived, to his great supprise, Gen. Shields had come in
on the east side and stationed a battery to guard the bridge to prevent Jack-
son from crossing. Jackson rode up to the men commanding the battery and
told them to move the guns back to anoLher position, which would be better,
and these men didn't know who Jackson was and obeyed the order, and Jack-
son went back and marched his men on over the bridge. He went on down tlie
river with his and Ewell's divisions to meet Shield's main army. We, of the
2nd Va. cavalry was left in the rear to hold Fremont in check, and as soon as
Ewell's and Jackson's men crossed the Ijridge they burned it. Of course our
cavalry could cross without the bridge but they fired it to stop Fremont's in-
fantry and artillery The waters of the Shenandoah were especially deep at
this time, but we crossed unharmed.

When Jackson reached the Lewis House he found that Shields had taken
the very position he w'as aiming to get. He had stationed 18 pieces of artillt-i-y
in an apple orchard around the Lewis House. It was on a hill and command-
ed three ways.

Gen. Blanch with his brigade was ordered down the Shenandoah, at the
water's edge. Gen. Trimble was ordered up at the foot of the mountain, his
men being concealed by the timber. Jackson's brigade came down the. river
about a half mile from Branches men, on a road running parallel with the river
Since Gen. Ashby's death, Gen. Stewart from Maryland, was commanding Ash-

by's man. Stewa.-t's men were ordered up to the right of Jackson's men and
in full view of the Lewis Houf^e and Shields whole army. Shields had taken
his position and of course Jackson had to make the attempt to move him
from it.

Jackson had sent a regiment up a ravine about 400 yards from the house
and right in front of the battery. They were entirely concealed in a rye field.
About 200 yards behind this regiment was another regiment also concealed in
the rye. Neither of these regiments knew the other one was in the field, and
whsn the signal guns were fired for all to advance, and the men nearest the
battery raised up. the regiment in the rear of the rye field fired on them, not
knowing they were our men, and killed about 300 before they found their mis-
take. Both i-egiments quit firing and concealed themselves again.

Trimble. Branch and Jackson, advanced a part of the way, but when this
confusion occurred between the two regiments in the rye field, Jackson's Vv'hole
army seemed demoralized. They thought, probably all those men in the rye
field were men supporting and protecting the battery.

The attack ceased for an hour or so, until Jackson could notify his men of
the plan, and when the second signal guns v/ere fired, they advanced from the
three sides.

Brigadier Dick Taylor had been ordered up nearer the batteries than any
one else, and when the signal guns were fired, Taylor's men marched right up
and took the guns. Shields sent reinforcements and took them back from Tay-
lor, and JuL-kson reinforced Taylor and he took them the second time.

Shields reinforced again and took them back from Taylor the second time,
and Jackson ordered reinforcements and Taylor took them the third time and
held them.

Trimble's whole force had come dovv^i from the mountain and Branct%from
the Shenandoah, v,^ith Jackson right in front of the battery. The cavalry had
been ordered to charge, by this time, and we drove them, with heavy slaught-
er, ten miles down the river.

By this time Fremont, who was on the west side of the Shenandoah, and
the bridge burned, you remember, had gotten a position and fired a few guns,
but v.e had driven Shields so far down the river that he could be of no help to
him then.

As we were coming back from driving Shields, Jackson sent out a skirm-
ish line and re-captured all of our men, about 100 in number, who had been
taken prisoners, and their guards. Thus ended the battle of Port Republic.

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Online LibraryRufus H. PeckReminiscences of a Confederate soldier of Co. C, 2nd Va. Cavalry → online text (page 2 of 10)